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Common Dental Problems

Virtually all teeth problems can be solved by the dentist. The result is not only an improvement in the smile but also an improvement in appearance and the overall quality of life. Having beautiful teeth enhances self esteem and one will no longer have to feel awkward when meeting new people or speaking in front of others. With perfect teeth, one can eat, talk, and laugh with confidence.

One of the most common teeth problems encountered is discolored teeth. There are several reasons why teeth lose their whiteness. Certain drinks like coffee, tea, and wines can stain teeth. Smoking or chewing tobacco can also stain teeth. Poor dental hygiene and inadequate brushing is also a contributing factor. Genetics also plays a role in the color of the teeth and some people just have naturally whiter teeth. With age, the outer layer of the teeth naturally wears away, revealing the dentin layer, which is naturally yellowish in color. One can prevent teeth discoloration by improving dental hygiene, regular flossing, and visiting the dentist for checkups and cleaning twice a year. Today, there are also treatment options available to whiten the teeth. Applying a bleaching agent to the enamel can remove discoloration. A light activated bleaching gel can also significantly whiten teeth in less than an hour although follow up treatments are needed. The teeth can also be covered with bonding materials. Another treatment method is by applying veneers, which may be thin composite or dental porcelain shells that are placed on the outer surfaces to cover the stained natural teeth.

Worn or cracked teeth are usually due to grinding and chewing on hard objects. The teeth can hurt when chewing or when the teeth are exposed to extremes in temperature. The treatment will depend on the type and extent of the crack. Sometimes, severely cracked teeth can no longer be repaired and would need to be extracted. This is the reason why regular visits to the dentist are very important. The dentist can spot hairline cracks, thus preventing further damage. Cracks can sometimes be restored with filling materials. If the damage has reached the nerve, a root canal treatment is done and a crown is placed to restore the tooth. In vertical breaks or split tooth or when the tooth has weakened from a cavity, the tooth may have to be removed.

Crooked teeth can adversely affect self confidence. Conventional braces have been used for years to move the teeth gradually and eventually straighten them. Typically, it takes two to three years before these can be removed. Today, there is an option not to wear these ugly metal wire braces. Especially for adults, metal braces across the teeth can be deemed unattractive. Invisible braces are made of clear plastic and are removable teeth aligners. These also require fewer return visits to the dentist or orthodontist so they are suitable even for busy people.

Another common problem is misshapen teeth. Teeth can be misshapen either naturally or as a result of extensive wear and tear. Teeth that are naturally misshapen can be covered with veneers or can be reshaped using dental bonding techniques. Porcelain veneers are thin shells that fit snugly over the natural teeth and are very effective in hiding misshapen teeth. The result is a perfect smile.

Dental implants are the best treatment option for replacing missing teeth. Unlike removable dentures, dental implants are long term or permanent replacements. A dental surgeon places a titanium metal in the jawbone. After three to six months, this is naturally and completely fused with the jawbone. An abutment is then fitted over the implant and a crown is fitted onto the abutment for a natural appearance. Dental implants are becoming the preferred choice over bridges or removable dentures because they not only look and feel natural, they prevent bone loss that would generally occur with tooth loss.

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Invisible Braces For Teeth Are The Top Choice For Adults

Many adults did not get the orthodontic treatment that they needed as a child or teen. They may have an overbite, crooked teeth or noticeable tooth gap. When someone feels self-conscious about the condition of their teeth, they often avoid smiling or laughing when they are around other people. They may even avoid having their photo taken or attending certain social situations because they are embarrassed about the way that their teeth look. It is never too late to get the perfect smile. Orthodontists have many adult clients.

In the past, most adults avoided getting braces because they did not want to have a mouth full of metal. Having to wear metal braces for a couple of years is not a good option for those who work in a professional environment. Today, adults can get invisible braces for teeth that can barely be seen by others. Invisible braces are a great option for adults who do not want their braces to be noticeable. Famous actors like Tom Cruise and Robert Pattinson have chosen to wear invisible braces as adults.

Invisible braces for teeth are also perfect for self-conscious teenagers who do not want their smile to stand out. The cost for invisible braces is not too much greater than the price of the metal variety. The best part about clear braces is that most people do not even notice when someone is wearing them. From a distance, they are completely unnoticeable, and they are even difficult to notice up close.

An adult who gets invisible braces for teeth will not only end up with a perfect smile, but they may also be preventing future teeth, jaw, gum or mouth problems. Orthodontic treatment is not only about beauty it is also about dental health. Adults who decide to get braces should make an appointment with their local orthodontist. The orthodontist will take x-rays, measurements and dental impressions in order to properly evaluate the bite. They will then explain whether or not braces are a good idea and provide information on a treatment plan. Most people wear braces for one or two years, but in some cases individuals must wear them for a longer period.

Once someone gets invisible braces for teeth they may experience some level of discomfort. Although everyone with braces experiences soreness now and then, most people do not find the process to be too painful overall. Very few people regret wearing braces once their treatment plan is finished. They love being able to show off their gorgeous new smile.

Gum Disease Can Increase The Time It Takes To Become Pregnant

For the first time, fertility experts have shown that, from the time that a woman starts trying to conceive, poor oral health can have a significant effect on the time to pregnancy.

Professor Roger Hart told the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology that the negative effect of gum disease on conception was of the same order of magnitude as the effect of obesity.

Periodontal (gum) disease is a chronic, infectious and inflammatory disease of the gums and supporting tissues. It is caused by the normal bacteria that exist in everyone’s mouths, which, if unchecked, can create inflammation around the tooth; the gum starts to pull away from the tooth, creating spaces (periodontal pockets) that become infected. The inflammation sets off a cascade of tissue-destructive events that can pass into the circulation. As a result, periodontal disease has been associated with heart disease, type 2 diabetes, respiratory and kidney disease, and problems in pregnancy such as miscarriage and premature birth. Around 10% of the population is believed to have severe periodontal disease. Regular brushing and flossing of teeth is the best way of preventing it.

Prof Hart, who is Professor of Reproductive Medicine at the University of Western Australia (Perth, Australia) and Medical Director of Fertility Specialists of Western Australia, said: “Until now, there have been no published studies that investigate whether gum disease can affect a woman’s chance of conceiving, so this is the first report to suggest that gum disease might be one of several factors that could be modified to improve the chances of a pregnancy.”

The researchers followed a group 3737 pregnant women, who were taking part in a Western Australian study called the SMILE study, and they analyzed information on pregnancy planning and pregnancy outcomes for 3416 of them.

They found that women with gum disease took an average of just over seven months to become pregnant – two months longer than the average of five months that it took women without gum disease to conceive.

In addition, non-Caucasian women with gum disease were more likely to take over a year to become pregnant compared to those without gum disease: their increased risk of later conception was 13.9% compared to 6.2% for women without gum disease. Caucasian women with gum disease also tended to take longer to conceive than those who were disease-free but the difference was not statistically significant (8.6% of Caucasian women with gum disease took over one year to conceive and 6.2% of women with gum disease).

Information on time to conception was available for 1,956 women, and of, these, 146 women took longer than 12 months to conceive – an indicator of impaired fertility. They were more likely to be older, non-Caucasian, to smoke and to have a body mass index over 25 kg/m2. Out of the 3416 women, 1014 (26%) had periodontal disease.

Prof Hart said: “Our data suggest that the presence of periodontal disease is a modifiable risk factor, which can increase a woman’s time to conception, particularly for non-Caucasians. It exerts a negative influence on fertility that is of the same order of magnitude as obesity. This study also confirms other, known negative influences upon time to conception for a woman; these include being over 35 years of age, being overweight or obese, and being a smoker. There was no correlation between the time it took to become pregnant and the socio-economic status of the woman.

“All women about to plan for a family should be encouraged to see their general practitioner to ensure that they are as healthy as possible before trying to conceive and so that they can be given appropriate lifestyle advice with respect to weight loss, diet and assistance with stopping smoking and drinking, plus the commencement of folic acid supplements. Additionally, it now appears that all women should also be encouraged to see their dentist to have any gum disease treated before trying to conceive. It is easily treated, usually involving no more than four dental visits.

“The SMILE study was one of the three largest randomized controlled trials performed in Western Australia. It showed conclusively that although treatment of periodontal disease does not prevent pre-term birth in any ethnic group, the treatment itself does not have any harmful effect on the mother or fetus during pregnancy*.”

Prof Hart said that the reason why pregnancies in non-Caucasian women were more affected by gum disease could be because these women appeared to have a higher level of inflammatory response to the condition.

* Published in Obstetrics and Gynecology, vol. 114, no. 6, December 2009

TMJ – What is it?

Dislocation of the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)

What Is It?

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ), located just in front of the lower part of the ear, allows the lower jaw to move. The TMJ is a ball-and-socket joint, just like the hip or shoulder. When the mouth opens wide, the ball (called the condyle) comes out of the socket and moves forward, going back into place when the mouth closes. TMJ becomes dislocated when the condyle moves too far and gets stuck in front of a bony prominence called the articular eminence. The condyle can’t move back into place. This happens most often when the ligaments that normally keep the condyle in place are somewhat loose, allowing the condyle to move beyond the articular eminence. The surrounding muscles often go into spasm and hold the condyle in the dislocated position.

Symptoms

The jaw locks in an open position and you cannot close your mouth. The condition can cause significant discomfort until the joint returns to the proper position.

Diagnosis

The dentist bases the diagnosis on the position of the jaw and the person’s inability to close his or her mouth.

Expected Duration

The problem remains until the joint is moved back into place. However, the area can be tender for a few days.

Prevention

TMJ dislocation can continue to happen in people with loose TMJ ligaments. To keep this from happening too often, dentists recommend that people limit the range of motion of their jaws, for example by placing their fist under their chin when they yawn to keep from opening their mouths too widely. Conservative surgical treatments can help to prevent the problem from returning. Some people have their jaws are wired shut for a period of time, which causes the ligaments to become less flexible and restricts their movement. In certain cases, surgery may be necessary. One procedure, called an eminectomy, removes the articular eminence so the ball of the joint no longer gets stuck in front of it. Another procedure involves injecting medications into the TMJ ligaments to tighten them.

Treatment

The muscles surrounding the temporomandibular joint need to relax so that the condyle can return to its normal position. Many people can have their dislocated jaw corrected without local anesthetics or muscled relaxants. However, some people need an injection of local anesthesia in the jaw joint, followed by a muscle relaxant to relax the spasms. The muscle relaxant is given intravenously (into a vein in the arm). Rarely, someone may need a general anesthetic in the operating room to have the dislocation corrected. In this case, it may be necessary to wire the jaws shut or use elastics between the top and bottom teeth to limit the movement of the jaw.

To move the condyle back into the correct position, a doctor or dentist will pull the lower jaw downward and tip the chin upward to free the condyle . The doctor or dentist then guides the ball back into the socket. After the joint is relocated, a soft or liquid diet is recommended for several days to minimize jaw movement and stress. People should avoid foods that are hard to chew, such as tough meats, carrots, hard candies or ice cubes, and be careful not to open their mouths too widely.

When To Call A Professional

A TMJ dislocation requires an immediate visit to the doctor or hospital emergency room to have the joint put back in place. You may be referred to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon for treatment.

Prognosis

The outlook is excellent for returning the dislocated ball of the joint to the socket. However, in some people, the joint may continue to become dislocated. If this happens, you may need surgery.

For more information, please call Dr. Jeffrey Fester in Roswell, GA, 770.587.4202 to schedule a free consultation.

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Abscess – What is it

What Is It?

An abscess is a limited area of pus formed as a result of a bacterial infection. The body’s immune system reacts to the infection, and sends white blood cells to the area to try to get rid of the bacteria. Pus is a mixture of live and dead white blood cells, enzymes and parts of destroyed cells and tissues. When there is no way for pus to drain, it forms an abscess.

Abscesses can form in almost every part of the body. In the mouth, abscesses form in gum tissue or in the roots of teeth and in the surrounding areas of the tooth. They can be caused by trauma (food or debris embedded deep in the gum), by bacteria that enters through a cavity and gets into the dental pulp, or from a deep periodontal pocket. People with a lowered resistance to infection are at increased risk of developing an abscess. At first, the abscess may cause a toothache, which can be severe. The tooth’s nerve can become infected and the infection can burrow through to the gum, forming a visible boil that can rupture in the mouth. Once the abscess ruptures, the pain often decreases significantly, but dental treatment is still necessary. If the abscess does not drain, the infection can spread to other areas of the head and neck and can become life threatening.

Symptoms

The main symptom is persistent, throbbing pain. At first, the tooth will be sensitive to heat and pressure while chewing. Later, you may develop a fever. Swollen lymph nodes under the jaw or in the neck can be tender and you may feel pain in the sinus area. If the abscess ruptures, a sudden rush of foul-smelling and foul-tasting fluid will spill into the mouth.

Diagnosis

Usually, your dentist can diagnose a tooth abscess by examining your mouth. He or she may push on the swollen area of the gum and do a pulp test on the affected tooth to see if it is still alive. A pulp test can involve:

  • Gentle tapping (percussion) on the tooth
  • Temperature testing
  • Using an electric tester on the tooth

Your dentist also may take an X-ray to look for bone erosion around the tip of the tooth’s root.

Expected Duration

Once the abscess is drained, most symptoms go away immediately or within a few days, but the abscess will not be cured unless the cause is eliminated.

Prevention

Good oral hygiene can help prevent abscesses by keeping teeth and gums free of food and debris. Regular dental checkups are also important. If you have a weakened immune system because of medication or another condition, let your dentist know before every appointment. You may receive antibiotics before the appointment to reduce the risk of infection.

Treatment

Saving an abscessed tooth begins with draining the infection, which usually relieves pain and removes much of the infection. Root canal treatment may be necessary and should be started as soon as possible to remove diseased tissue.

If the abscess involves gum tissue, your dentist may suggest that you rinse with warm salt water (1/8 of a teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of water) a few times a day for several days. You may be prescribed antibiotics to help make sure the infection has been eliminated. Have dental X-rays performed six months later to confirm if healthy bone and tissue are filling the area of the abscess. If the bone does not fill in after the treatment, you may need to visit a periodontist who can surgically reshape the gum so that it is easier to keep clean, or an endodontist who can surgically remove a persistent abscess.

When To Call A Professional

If you have a toothache or notice evidence of an abscess on your gum, visit your dentist. Even if the abscess drains and the pain decreases, a visit to the dentist for complete treatment is crucial.

Prognosis

The outlook is excellent if detected promptly and treated appropriately.

For more information, please call Dr. Jeffrey Fester in Roswell, GA, 770.587.4202 to schedule a free consultation.

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Risks and Benefits of Cosmetic Dental Surgery

Cosmetic dentistry doesn’t have to require taking out a second mortgage on your house. If you really want to improve your smile, there are several affordable dental options. Perfect teeth are not just for the rich and famous. After a few short procedures, you can come out looking like a star yourself for much less money.

Risks

The decision to go forward with a full-mouth makeover is risky because of the cost and the potential for botched results, but the field has improved so much that results are highly guaranteed. The process of covering your teeth with porcelain veneers costs several thousand dollars, and while the results might be stunning, many people don’t think a perfect smile is worth that much. The trick is to go for a combination of several lesser procedures.

More Affordable Options

Some people have found the affordable combination of replacement fillings, tooth whitening and tooth shaping to be highly successful. Old fillings, especially on the front teeth, can detract from your appearance. Old white fillings can become stained and visible on your teeth. Metal fillings, particularly silver, can cause the teeth to look darker from inside since teeth are somewhat translucent. These can look unattractive, especially if your teeth are pointed or uneven.

A dentist can first bleach the teeth and then file them into a more attractive shape. Old discolored or metal fillings can be replaced with new, better-matching ones. This unconventional smile enhancement could cost as little as $1,000 or less at a cheap dentist with a discount plan. Explore different combinations and assess what your own mouth needs. Sometimes it might take only one or two small procedures before your smile is picture-perfect.

Coverage

Insurance companies often won’t cover cosmetic procedures, but there are several affordable dental plans on the market that might help you out by providing a discount on your procedure list. Don’t let exorbitant costs keep you from considering the smile you want. These options can make it much more accessible.
For more information, please call Dr. Jeffrey Fester in Roswell, GA, 770.587.4202 to schedule a free consultation.
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How to Fix Broken Teeth – When To Seek Repairs

Just the thought of oral care is often enough to make some patients avoid the dentist altogether. Others do not keep regular appointments because they do not know how to obtain affordable dental coverage. While avoiding regular oral maintenance can eventually lead to serious problems, immediate dental coverage is even more important if you suddenly experience a broken tooth.

Minor Fractures

  • Chips and “Craze Lines” – These are mild cracks in your outer enamel.  Your dentist can file and polish any of these rough spots that you see or have been feeling with your tongue.
  • Crack(s) Down to the Nerve – Don’t be fooled if the pieces appear intact for the time being. Your dentist may give your tooth filling(s) and a grounding to stabilize it. If the nerve is damaged, you may also need a root canal1.
  • Broken Cusps – These are breaks in the pointed chewing surfaces of your teeth. Often, these do not require treatment at all. If they do, your dentist may give you an inlay or crown2 to maintain the tooth’s shape and integrity.

More Serious Fractures

  • Severe Fracture with Exposed Nerve – Signs of this are a good deal of pain and bleeding. Your dentist will treat this with a root canal, topped off with a crown or filling.
  • Vertical Fracture – This is when your tooth splits vertically into two pieces, causing damage to the root. Your back molars have more than one root, so if the break occurs in one of these teeth, your dentist may be able to crown it after performing a root canal. If none of the roots can be saved, your tooth will have to be extracted.
  • Root to Surface Fracture – These fractures work their way up to the chewing surface. Because the area often becomes infected, these breaks are painful and frequently result in extraction.

When Should I Visit the Dentist For My Broken Tooth?

You should head to the dentist if you notice twinges of pain when consuming food and drinks that are very hot or very cold, or if you have severe, lingering pain in the tooth, a potential sign of nerve damage.

Situations When Teeth Can Crack or Fracture

  • A fall or hit in the mouth
  • Biting down very hard on something
  • Weakening of enamel by tooth decay

Some fractures result in intense pain, but others have symptoms which are less acute. Regardless of the severity of your pain, broken teeth need to be fixed in a timely manner, and without breaking the bank! An affordable discount plan can help provide you the emergency dental coverage you need.

Why Do I Have to Visit the Dentist?

Your dentist can determine if a cavity has caused or exacerbated the break, and treat the decay before it spreads further. He or she can also diagnose any damage to the nerve inside your tooth, damage that will require more severe treatment and cause you great pain if ignored.

Why Do I Need Dental Coverage for a Broken Tooth?

As you can see, fixes for broken teeth run the gamut from a quick polish to root canal to extraction. As you might imagine, there is a very wide spectrum of prices you could pay for various treatments. A quick polish and filing may only cost you a few extra dollars, while other procedures could easily the thousand-dollar threshold if you do not have dental coverage.

When you realize that you have a cracked or fractured tooth, one of the first thoughts you may have is, “How can I make this affordable?” Fortunately, you do not need to tackle this expense on your own. There are excellent discount dental plans that can provide the affordable dental care you need. Don’t suffer in silence with a cracked or broken tooth. If you have a broken tooth, you may want to investigate cheap dental coverage today. With the money you save, you will have good reason to smile.

1 Root Canal: This endodontic therapy involves removal of a tooth’s inner pulp tissue to prevent further damage or infection. After the pulp is taken out, the dentist cuts out the nerve and cleans out the inside of the tooth. He or she then fills the root cavity with a solid substance and seals the area. Though this procedure is commonly thought to be very painful, if properly performed you will feel little. Many dentists use local anesthesia during root canals and prescribe pain relievers afterward. Discount plans often provide dental coverage of this expensive procedure, saving patients hundreds of dollars.

2 Crown: A crown, which will cap or encase your remaining tooth, often greatly increases the likelihood of a successful, long lasting root canal. A crown is often necessary to maintain the shape and effectiveness of a tooth treated with a root canal. It will help the tooth to function properly without breaking. The crown process begins with a tooth impression. The impression is then sent to a lab expert, who will fabricate a crown to match your enamel. At a later visit, your dentist will insert and cement it in place. Many crowns will last ten years or more, and may need to be replaced overtime.

For more information, please call Dr. Jeffrey Fester in Roswell, GA, 770.587.4202 to schedule a free consultation.

Burning Mouth Syndrome – What is it?

Introduction

Burning mouth syndrome (BMS) is a complex, vexing condition in which a burning pain occurs that may involve your tongue, lips or widespread areas of your whole mouth, without any obvious reason.

The disorder has long been associated with a variety of other conditions — including menopause, psychological problems, nutritional deficiencies and disorders of the mouth, such as oral thrush and dry mouth (xerostomia). Some researchers have suggested dysfunctional or damaged nerves as a possible cause. But the exact cause of burning mouth syndrome is often difficult to pin down, and pain may continue for months or years.

Treatment of burning mouth syndrome is highly individualized and depends on your particular signs and symptoms and on the underlying cause or causes, if they can be identified. Most people with burning mouth syndrome can control their symptoms through tailored treatment plans.

Other names sometimes used for burning mouth syndrome include scalded mouth syndrome, burning tongue syndrome, burning lips syndrome, glossodynia and stomatodynia.

Signs and symptoms

Photographs showing burning mouth syndrome

The main symptom of burning mouth syndrome is a burning sensation involving your tongue, lips, gums, palate, throat or widespread areas of your whole mouth. People with the syndrome may describe the sensation in the affected areas as hot or scalded, as if they had been burned with a hot liquid.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Sore mouth
  • A tingling or numb sensation in your mouth or on the tip of your tongue
  • A bitter or metallic taste

Some people with burning mouth syndrome don’t wake up with mouth pain, but find that the pain intensifies during the day and into the evening. Some have constant daily pain, while others feel pain on and off throughout the day and may even have periods in which they feel no pain at all.

Burning mouth syndrome affects women seven times as often as men. It generally occurs in middle-aged or older adults. But it may occur in younger people as well.

Causes

The possible causes of burning mouth syndrome are many and complex. Each of the following possible causes applies to only a small portion of all people who complain of a burning mouth. Many people have multiple causes. Identifying all of the causes is important so that your doctor can develop a treatment plan tailored for you. Possible causes include:

  • Dry mouth (xerostomia). This condition can be related to use of certain medications, including tricyclic antidepressants, central nervous system depressants, lithium, diuretics and medications used to treat high blood pressure. It can also occur with aging or Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes both dry mouth and dry eyes.
  • Other oral conditions. Oral yeast infection (thrush) is a common cause of a burning mouth that may also occur with other causes, such as diabetes, denture use and certain medications. Geographic tongue, a condition that causes a dry mouth and a sore, patchy tongue, also may be associated with burning mouth syndrome.
  • Psychological factors. Emotional disorders, such as anxiety and depression, are often associated with burning mouth syndrome, as is an extreme fear of cancer. Although these problems can cause a burning mouth, they may also result from it.
  • Nutritional deficiencies. Being deficient in nutrients, such as iron, zinc, folate (vitamin B-9), thiamin (vitamin B-1), riboflavin (vitamin B-2), pyridoxine (vitamin B-6) and cobalamin (vitamin B-12), may affect your oral tissues and cause a burning mouth. These deficiencies can also lead to vitamin deficiency anemia.
  • Irritating dentures. Dentures may place stress on some of the muscles and tissues of your mouth. The materials used in dentures also may irritate the tissues in your mouth.
  • Nerve disturbance or damage (neuropathy). Damage to nerves that control taste and pain in the tongue may also result in a burning mouth.
  • Allergies. The mouth burning may be due to allergies or reactions to foods, food flavorings, other food additives, fragrances, dyes or other substances.
  • Reflux of stomach acid (gastroesophageal reflux disease). The sour- or bitter-tasting fluid that enters your mouth from your upper gastrointestinal tract may cause irritation and pain.
  • Certain medications. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, used to treat high blood pressure, may cause side effects that include a burning mouth.
  • Oral habits. These include often-unconscious activities such as tongue thrusting and teeth grinding (bruxism), which can irritate your mouth.
  • Endocrine disorders. Your oral tissues may react to high blood sugar levels that occur with conditions such as diabetes and underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).
  • Hormonal imbalances, such as those associated with menopause. Burning mouth syndrome occurs most commonly among postmenopausal women, although it affects many other people as well. Changes in hormone levels may affect the composition of your saliva.
  • Excessive irritation. Irritation of the oral tissues may result from excessive brushing of your tongue, overuse of mouthwashes or consuming too many acidic drinks.

Often, more than one cause is present. Despite careful evaluation, doctors are sometimes unable to find the cause of burning mouth symptoms.

When to seek medical advice

If you have persistent pain or soreness in your tongue, lips, gums or other areas of your mouth, see your doctor. Your doctor can search for the possible cause or causes to guide treatment.

Screening and diagnosis

Your doctor will review your medical history, examine your mouth and ask you to describe your symptoms, your oral habits and your oral care routine. In addition, he or she will likely perform a general medical examination, looking for signs of any associated conditions.

As part of the diagnostic process, you may undergo some of the following tests:

  • Complete blood cell count (CBC). This common blood test provides a count of each type of blood cell in a given volume of your blood. The CBC measures the amount of hemoglobin, the percentage of blood that’s composed of red blood cells (hematocrit), the number and kinds of white blood cells, and the number of platelets. This blood test may reveal a wide variety of conditions, including infections and anemia, which can indicate nutritional deficiencies.
  • Other blood tests. Because nutritional deficiencies are one cause of a burning mouth, your doctor may collect blood samples to check blood levels of iron, zinc, folate (vitamin B-9), thiamin (vitamin B-1), riboflavin (vitamin B-2), pyridoxine (vitamin B-6) and cobalamin (vitamin B-12). Also, because diabetes may cause a burning mouth, your doctor may check your fasting blood sugar level.
  • Allergy tests. Your doctor may suggest allergy testing to see if you may be allergic to certain foods, additives or even substances in dentures.
  • Oral swab culture or biopsy. If your doctor suspects oral thrush, he or she may take a small tissue sample (biopsy) or an oral swab culture to be examined in the laboratory.

Because burning mouth syndrome is associated with such a wide variety of other medical conditions, your doctor may refer you to a specialist for screening and diagnosis and possibly treatment. Your health care team may include a dermatologist, dentist, psychiatrist, psychologist or a doctor who specializes in ear, nose and throat problems (otolaryngologist).

Treatment

Treatment triggers improvement in symptoms for most people with burning mouth syndrome. But the type of treatment depends on the underlying cause.

  • Dry mouth (xerostomia). Treating the cause of your dry mouth — Sjogren’s syndrome, use of medications or some other cause — may relieve burning mouth symptoms. In addition, drinking more fluids or taking a medication that promotes flow of saliva may help.
  • Other oral conditions. If the cause is oral thrush, treatment is with oral antifungal medications such as nystatin (Mycostatin) or fluconazole (Diflucan). If you wear dentures, your dentures may also need to be treated.
  • Psychological factors. For a burning mouth that may be caused by or associated with psychological factors such as anxiety and depression, your doctor may recommend antidepressant therapy or psychiatric therapy or both together. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (Prozac, Zoloft, others) may cause less dry mouth than other antidepressant medications.
  • Nutritional deficiencies. You may be able to correct nutritional deficiencies by taking supplements of B vitamins and minerals such as zinc and iron.
  • Irritating dentures. Your dentist may be able to adjust your dentures so they are less irritating to your mouth. If your dentures contain substances that irritate your oral tissues, you may need different dentures. You may also improve symptoms by practicing good denture care, such as removing dentures at night and cleaning them properly.
  • Nerve disturbance or damage (neuropathy). Your doctor may suggest medications that affect your nervous system and control pain, including benzodiazepines such as clonazepam (Klonopin), tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline or nortriptyline (Pamelor, Aventyl), or anticonvulsants such as gabapentin (Neurontin). For pain relief, your doctor may also suggest rinsing your mouth with water and capsaicin — the active ingredient in hot peppers, which also is called capsicum.
  • Allergies. Avoiding foods that contain allergens that may irritate the tissues of your mouth may help.
  • Certain medications. If a medication you’re taking is causing a burning mouth, using a substitute medication, if possible, may help.
  • Oral habits. Tongue thrusting and teeth grinding (bruxism) can be helped with mouth guards, medications and relaxation techniques.
  • Endocrine disorders. If a burning mouth is associated with conditions such as diabetes or hypothyroidism, treating those conditions may improve your symptoms.

If doctors can’t identify the cause of your symptoms, they may still recommend trying oral thrush medications, B vitamins or antidepressants. These medications have proved effective in treating burning mouth syndrome.

Coping skills

Burning mouth syndrome can be painful and frustrating. The good news is that it’s a treatable condition. Although it may take time, with the help of a team of health professionals, you can usually find a treatment plan that’s right for you.

In the short term, you may gain some relief by avoiding irritating substances, such as alcohol-based mouthwashes, cinnamon or mint products, and cigarette smoke. Chewing on ice chips or sugar-free gum also may help. So can keeping your dentures out all night and brushing your teeth with baking soda instead of toothpaste. Ask your doctor for other tips to manage your pain and discomfort.

Smart Snacks For Healthy Teeth

What’s wrong with sugary snacks, anyway?

Sugary snacks taste so good — but they aren’t so good for your teeth or your body. The candies, cakes, cookies and other sugary foods that kids love to eat between meals can cause tooth decay. Some surgary foods have a lot of fat in them, too. Kids who consume sugary snacks eat many different kinds of sugar every day, including table sugar (sucrose) and corn sweeteners (fructose). Starchy snacks can also break down into sugars once they’re in your mouth.

How do sugars attack your teeth?

Invisible germs called bacteria live in your mouth all the time. Some of these bacteria form a sticky material called plaque on the surface of the teeth. When you put sugar in your mouth, the bacteria in the plaque gobble up the sweet stuff and turn it into acids. These acids are powerful enough to dissolve the hard enamel that covers your teeth. That’s how cavities get started. If you don’t eat much sugar, the bacteria can’t produce as much of the acid that eats away enamel.

How can I “snack smart” to protect myself from tooth decay?

Before you start munching on a snack, ask yourself what’s in the food you’ve chosen. Is it loaded with sugar? If it is, think again. Another choice would be better for your teeth. And keep in mind that certain kinds of sweets can do more damage than others. Gooey or chewy sweets spend more time sticking to the surface of your teeth. Because sticky snacks stay in your mouth longer than foods that you quickly chew and swallow, they give your teeth a longer sugar bath.

You should also think about when and how often you eat snacks. Do you nibble on sugary snacks many times throughout the day, or do you usually just have dessert after dinner? Damaging acids form in your mouth every time you eat a sugary snack. The acids continue to affect your teeth for at least 20 minutes before they are neutralized and can’t do any more harm. So, the more times you eat sugary snacks during the day, the more often you feed bacteria the fuel they need to cause tooth decay.

If you eat sweets, it’s best to eat them as dessert after a main meal instead of several times a day between meals. Whenever you eat sweets — in any meal or snack — brush your teeth well with a fluoride toothpaste afterward.

When you’re deciding about snacks, think about:

  • The number of times a day you eat sugary snacks
  • How long the sugary food stays in your mouth
  • The texture of the sugary food (Chewy? Sticky?)

If you snack after school, before bedtime, or other times during the day, choose something without a lot of sugar or fat. There are lots of tasty, filling snacks that are less harmful to your teeth—and the rest of your body — than foods loaded with sugars and low in nutritional value. Snack smart!

Low-fat choices like raw vegetables, fresh fruits, or whole-grain crackers or bread are smart choices. Eating the right foods can help protect you from tooth decay and other diseases. Next time you reach for a snack, pick a food from the list inside or make up your own menu of non-sugary, low-fat snack foods from the basic food groups.

How can you snack smart? Be choosy!

Pick a variety of foods from these groups:

  • Fresh fruits and raw vegetables
    • Berries
    • Oranges
    • Grapefruit
    • Melons
    • Pineapple
    • Pears
    • Tangerines
    • Broccoli
    • Celery
    • Carrots
    • Cucumbers
    • Tomatoes
    • Unsweetened fruit and vegetable juices
    • Canned fruits in natural juices
  • Grains:
    • Bread
    • Plain bagels
    • Unsweetened cereals
    • Unbuttered popcorn
    • Tortilla chips (baked, not fried)
    • Pretzels (low-salt)
    • Pasta
    • Plain crackers
  • Milk and dairy products:
    • Low or non-fat milk
    • Low or non-fat yogurt
    • Low or non-fat cheese
    • Low or non-fat cottage cheese
  • Meat, nuts and seeds:
    • Chicken
    • Turkey
    • Sliced meats
    • Pumpkin seeds
    • Sunflower seeds
    • Nuts
  • Others (these snacks combine foods from the different groups):
    • Pizza
    • Tacos

Remember to:

  • Choose sugary foods less often
  • Avoid sweets between meals
  • Eat a variety of low or non-fat foods from the basic groups
  • Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste after snacks and meals

Note to parents

The foods listed in this leaflet have not all been tested for their decay-causing potential. However, knowledge to date indicates that they are less likely to promote tooth decay than are some of the heavily sugared foods children often eat between meals.

Candy bars aren’t the only culprits. Foods such as pizza, breads, and hamburger buns may also contain sugars. Check the label. The new food labels identify sugars and fats on the Nutrition Facts panel on the package. Keep in mind that brown sugar, honey, molasses and syrups also react with bacteria to produce acids, just as refined table sugar does. These foods also are potentially damaging to teeth.

Your child’s meals and snacks should include a variety of foods from the basic food groups, including fruits and vegetables; grains, including breads and cereals; milk and dairy products; and meat, nuts and seeds. Some snack foods have greater nutritional value than others and will better promote your child’s growth and development. However, be aware that even some fresh fruits, if eaten in excess, may promote tooth decay. Children should brush their teeth with fluoride toothpaste after snacks and meals. (So should you!)

Please note: These general recommendations may need to be adapted for children on special diets because of diseases or conditions that interfere with normal nutrition.

Gingivitis: New Insights Into Inflammation And Periodontal Diseases

At the forefront of dentistry today is an increasing knowledge of the role of chronic inflammation and the changes it can cause in both the oral cavity and systemically.

Now you can gain a new level of understanding with these informative articles to help you more effectively treat your patients with gingival inflammation. Originally appearing in the July 2004 Supplement to the Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry entitled, “Gingivitis: An Inflammatory Periodontal Disease” these articles are available to you online at www.ColgateProfessional.com.

Inflammation is the localized, protective response of the body to injury or infection. The classic clinical signs that characterize inflammation are heat, redness, swelling, pain, and loss of function.

During inflammation, cells and their secreted chemicals attempt to destroy, dilute, or wall off the injurious agent. A series of biochemical events cause the blood vessels to dilate and become more permeable, resulting in the activation of the complement, clotting and kinin systems. The end result of inflammation is the return of function by the regeneration or repair of the affected tissue.

In some instances, inflammation may continue for a prolonged period of time, producing untoward consequences for localized tissue as well as the entire body.The purpose of this article is to provide a basic and simplified understanding of how the inflammatory process functions in the human body.

CE2 — Periodontal Inflammation: From Gingivitis to Systemic Disease?

Frank A. Scannapieco, DMD, PhD

There has been a resurgence of interest in recent years in the systemic effects of oral infections such as periodontal diseases. The study of the various means by which periodontal infections and inflammation may influence a variety of systemic conditions is collectively referred to as periodontal medicine.

The periodontium responds to toothborne biofilm (dental plaque) by the process of inflammation. Dental biofilms release a variety of biologically active products, such as bacterial lipopolysaccharides (endotoxins), chemotactic peptides, protein toxins, and organic acids. These molecules stimulate the host to produce a variety of responses, among them the production and release of potent agents known as cytokines.

These include interleukin-1 beta, interleukin-8, prostaglandins, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha. There is a spectrum of periodontal response to these molecules, from mild gingivitis to severe destructive periodontitis. These and other host products and responses may influence a variety of important disease pathways, including atherosclerosis, mucosal inflammation, and premature parturition. The purpose of this article is to review the possible biological pathways by which periodontal diseases may influence these disease processes.

For more information on Periodontal Disease, please call Dr. Jeffrey Fester in Roswell, GA, 770.587.4202 to schedule a free consultation.